About this time eighteen years ago, I finished teaching my very first childbirth class. Three couples, on my couch in my tiny little house. My friend Kristi helped me find the couples to teach, and I had a more experienced educator observing me and mentoring me. I was every bit as pregnant as the women in my class! Doula work would come a few years later as that baby grew, and birth photography about 10 years later. I’m not bored with births yet, and the love and emotion still get to me every single time. I’m so lucky to be a part of those precious moments for families, to see the amazing strength it takes to birth a baby, and to see parents fall in love with their babies!
In the eighteen years since then, I’ve seen quite a few changes in the birth world, most of them positive:
I’ve seen hospitals drop the mandatory nursery stay and keep moms and babies together in the immediate hours postpartum.
I’ve seen a Baby Friendly hospital come to my area, and other hospitals make changes to stay competitive
I’ve seen the episiotomy rate drop – it used to be routine and nearly all moms got one, now care providers are providing individualized care and doing them on an as-needed basis. I’ve seen a corresponding increase in the number of OBs who are skilled at supporting the perineum.
I’ve seen home birth midwifery become expressly legal in my state, with optional licensure that includes prescriptive authority.
I’ve seen the creation and expansion of a new kind of birth center in my area. Small, single bed facilities that are becoming quite popular.
I’ve seen social media, smart phone apps and online information change how women get information about birth. This has been both good and bad. Women are more educated and taking charge of their health, but they’re also getting terrified by Dr. Google and getting bad advice from Dr. Facebook.
I’ve seen the rise of new methods of childbirth education, like HypnoBirthing, HypnoBabies and Birthing From Within.
I’d have the change to meet and get to know many of the great leaders who are working to improve childbirth!
I’ve seen public knowledge of doulas change dramatically. From the word “doula” being added to the dictionary, to seeing celebrities talk about (or even become) doulas, to seeing multiple doula organizations grow exponentially. When I first started attending births, I would tell women I was a doula and the response would be “You’re a WHAT?!?!?” – now when I tell women I am a doula, the response is much more likely to be “I love doulas! Used one with my births!” or “Oh, my sister had one of those and raved about it!”
I’ve seen the rates of VBAC rise dramatically, and then fall just as dramatically.
I’ve seen our local doula organization grow from about 25 members (we held our annual conference in someone’s living room one year!) to a large powerhouse of strong women influencing the birth culture in our area.
I’ve seen research change practice in all kinds of ways. More skin-to-skin (even in the OR!), delayed cord clamping, changes in epidurals, etc.
I’ve seen a rise in the number of care providers who are willing to let parents catch!
I’ve seen hundreds of families grow, partners who provide amazing support, siblings who squeal with delight, and mothers who realize their own strength in ways they never had before. I truly love my job and am looking forward to many more years serving birthing families. I also look forward to seeing many other changes for the better.